While remote working certainly has its perks, there are always downsides to everything. One of the difficult aspects of working remotely is feeling isolated. It’s easy to shut the outside world out, especially when working from home, and sometimes days or even weeks pass when we don’t see anyone. This can lead to a feeling of deep loneliness.
We all have different needs when it comes to work/life balance. Some people love working alone and others need lots of human contact. One of the beautiful things about working remotely is that we can more or less choose when and where we work. In order to avoid loneliness, it’s important to customize your schedule and workspace so that it suits you. I’ve interviewed over 50 people who work remotely and wanted to share some of their tips for how you can combat the loneliness of working alone and build connection into your day.
How to stay connected to the world as a remote worker
- KNOW WHAT YOU NEED. Everyone’s social needs are different. Some just need to get out of the house every once in a while, others don’t function unless they are surround by a buzz of people talking around them. Before learning how to stay connected with others, take some time to think about what it is you really want.
- GO OUT. If you’re working on your own and you physically want to be around other people, you’ll have to leave the house. It’s as simple as that. Even just going out for exercise can really help to get you out of that lonely state.
- MIX UP YOUR WORK PLACES. These days there are plenty of places you can go to work around people. Cafés, bookstores, libraries, hotel lobbies and co-working spaces are all good options. Sometimes just changing where we work can help us feel more connected with others. You can rent an office with other entrepreneurs, or if you have a close relationship with your clients, you can ask to work from their offices even when you’re not doing work for them.
- MEETUPS AND CONFERENCES. Meetups are a great way to find your community and show people who you are and what you do. You can join a meetup that interests you or even organize one. Whether its to meet like-minded people or promote your work, meetups and conferences get you out of your cave and into a world of people.
- WORK OUT LOUD. Narrate your work and make it observable to others. There are lots of ways you can do this. There’s the daily standup meeting, keeping your instant messaging status accurate as to where you are, what you are doing, on things like I Done This or Trello. There are also all sorts of online task management systems where people can see what each other is doing. You can also use a group instant messaging systems like Slack or HipChat. One thing that really binds a team together is using video. There is a huge difference in engagement when we see each other. Zoom is an excellent tool for this.
- FIND PEOPLE TO COLLABORATE WITH ONLINE. You can find a person online to collaborate with and use Skype to do a quick check-in. You can then turn off the video and continue to work together. This gives you the sense of working with somebody and allows you to ask questions if need be. You can also join the virtual team talk online, a co-working group such as Sococo which is a lovely virtual office that allows you to see people in different rooms.
- MAKE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA. Social media is a great marketing tool, and many of us use it for marketing. However, it’s also a great way to meet new people with similar interests as you. Find the social media channel that works for you and start looking for others who share the same interest that you do.
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
- Helping remote workers avoid loneliness and burnout by HBR
- Loneliness – the darker side of remote working by Emily Elwes on Medium
Welcome to the Collaboration Superpowers podcast. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. Welcome to another episode, everyone. I’m dedicating this week’s episode to talking about how to combat loneliness and that feeling of being disconnected as a remote worker? I know many remote workers have struggled with this. And over all the interviews, I’ve gathered some great tips for what remote workers do to connect with their teams and with other people. So if you are a remote worker who works mostly on your own and you’re craving social contact, this episode is for you. Now if you’re working on your own and you physically want to be around other people, naturally, you’re going to have to leave the house. It’s as simple as that. Even just going out for exercise can really combat the feeling of being lonely. But more than that, there are many places you can go to work, cafés, bookstores, libraries, co-working spaces. If you want to be around other people, there are plenty of places to get different levels of social interaction. I know several solopreneurs who have actually banded together with other solopreneurs and rented an office together. So even if they’re not working at the same company, they still have the space that they can go to together and work. And if you have a close relationship with your clients, you can also work from client offices, even when you’re not doing work for them. It’s a great way to build relationship just by being there by proximity. And of course don’t forget about local meetups or conferences. There are tons of places you can go to meet people or just be around people. But my number one tip for combating loneliness and disconnection is to leave the house.
Now it’s not just when we’re working on our own that we can feel disconnected. It can also happen when we’re working with a remote team. When we don’t see each other very often, we can quickly become distant and more distance usually causes more misunderstandings. And I think one of the best cures for this is to have a team that works out loud. You’ve heard me talking about working out loud before. I got that from John Stepper’s book, Working Out Loud, which I highly recommend. And what it means is simply narrating your work and making it observable to others. So it’s not spamming everybody with marketing stuff about what you’re doing. It’s simply narrating what you’re doing so that people know what it is. And there are lots of ways to do this. For example, there’s the daily standup meeting. There is keeping your instant messaging status accurate as to where you are, what you’re doing, or things like I Done This or Trello. And there are all kinds of online task management systems where people can see what each other are doing. So depending on what your team needs, put something in place where it makes your work more observable. I will admit I’m personally a big fan of I Done This. It’s a Facebook-style newsfeed where your team posts what they’ve been working on throughout the day. You can like people’s statuses. You can also comment on people’s statuses. And I find that on the Happy Melly team, most people read through or skim the I Done This. And there are quite a number of conversations that happen there. So I have no affiliation with I Done This, but I just personally like the tool. And of course another way of working out loud is by using a group instant messaging system. The two big ones are Slack and HipChat. The downside to those tools, I’ve got to admit, is that there can be a lot of Signal to Noise. So it’s like a constant stream of information. So I suggest for that to put in place some Slack etiquette for your team. Just come up with some basic guidelines for how you want to communicate. Otherwise, tools of this kind can quickly go out of control.
Now I’m of the opinion that one thing that really binds a team together is using video. There is a huge difference in engagement when we see each other versus when we can’t see each other. And I know that most big companies out there are forced to use some horrible videoconferencing tools. I’m not going to name any names, but I definitely feel for the companies that are using these tools. The only advice I guess I really have is to start pushing back and requesting the use of better video tools because they do exist now. Okay, there are not many, but there is Zoom. And if you haven’t tried Zoom yet, you must give it a try and tell them I sent you. Seeing each other helps us feel more connected. And using video gives great opportunities for things like virtual lunches or virtual drinks or virtual dance parties if you’re on a really fun team.
Another way to combat being lonely or disconnected is to find people to collaborate with online. For example, Gretchen Wegner, an academic life coach and I, have been working together for about five years. She is in California. I’m in the Netherlands. And for three or four hours every night my time, in morning her time, we just get online on Skype, we do a quick check in using video, and then we turn the videos off and just work. And it feels like you’re working with somebody in the room with you because I can hear her typing, and sometimes I just ask a question or she left me a question. And it’s as if I have a colleague here with me. Now it’s not like you need to do this with colleagues all the time, but even just an hour or two hours a day, overlapping with one or more people in work sessions like this can really help. If you’re really daring, I’d like to invite you to join the virtual team talk online, co-working group. Yes, you heard that right, online co-working. We’re trying it. We’re using Sococo, which is a lovely virtual office where you can go and see people in different rooms. You could have your own room where you want to focus, and you can be in a group room or you’re having a group collaboration session with people from all over the world. Sometimes there will be people that you know and sometimes there will be new people. We’re having a great time exploring the space. So I invite you to join us. Just go ahead and contact me. All my contact information is at collaborationsuperpowers.com.
And one, final tip for combating loneliness and disconnection as a remote worker is make use of social media. Yes, social media is a great marketing tool, and many of us use it for marketing. However, it’s also a great way to meet new people with similar interests as you. Find the social media channel that works for you and start looking for others who share the same interest that you do. As you can see, there are many ways to combat the loneliness of working on our own. We can build all kinds of different connections into our remote working day. I’d love to hear what some of your tips are. What do you do when you’re feeling disconnected? Email me your tips and I’ll include them in the show notes. You can find my information at collaborationsuperpowers.com.
I hope you enjoyed those tips, everyone. Stay tuned next week when I interview another company doing great things remotely. Our weekly show of gratitude to the producer of this podcast, Nick, the podcast monster. He’s so great. You can hire him to make you a star at podcastmonster.com. And the big thanks to Alfred Boland, the dazzling, graphic designer for collaborationsuperpowers.com. He’s the one that makes me look so cool. If you want to look cool, you can hire him at bolanden.nl. All right, everyone. Until next week, work where you’re most productive and be powerful.